We’ve got a burner of a Memorial Cup going on right now, with all four teams winning one and dropping one to kick things off. The stars have shined and the games have been fun, so it’s looking like a hot finish in Saskatchewan. Elsewhere, the NHL draft combine roster is out and it’s a pretty solid slate – not a major snub to be found, which isn’t always the case. With those news items and more in mind, here’s a look at some of the players we’re excited to see in the NHL one day.
Anthony Mantha, LW – Val-d’Or Foreurs (QMJHL)
Only one player in the Quebec League scored 50 goals this season – and he didn’t play for Halifax. That would be Mantha, who broke out in a huge way, despite playing with different linemates and coming into the campaign with realistic expectations around his young team. So was a second round playoff defeat better than anticipated?
“Maybe not better,” Mantha said. “But we knew we could get to at least the second round. The final was the goal. I just hope next year is better.”
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, the Foreurs winger is a load to handle on the ice, particularly since he boasts great scoring prowess and passing acumen.
“The key to my success was my work ethic,” he said. “I would go home and go to bed early the night before a game and prepare myself for the whole day.”
In order to improve, Mantha wants to up his competitiveness, including when he’s faced with a 1-on-1 battle for the puck. Luckily, he’s got a pretty good lifeline in Andre Pronovost, the four-time Stanley Cup winner with the Montreal Canadiens who also happens to be his grandfather.
“During the season, he goes to every one of my games around Montreal,” Mantha said. “He’s always giving me tips and he has watched a lot of hockey for a long time, so he’s great to listen to.”
Whichever NHL team grabs Mantha can be rest assured he has an experienced ear to guide him. Draft eligible in 2013.
Nathan MacKinnon, C – Halifax Mooseheads (QMJHL)
His virtuoso performance in a 7-4 grounding of Portland put MacKinnon at the forefront of draft talk, even if buddy Seth Jones (whom he scorched on one of his hat trick goals) just seems perfect for Colorado in the No. 1 slot. Nevertheless, MacKinnon is the top forward available, with his skill, explosiveness and compete level as exhibit Nos. 1, 2 and 3. So enjoy him, Florida. Draft eligible in 2013.
Derrick Pouliot, D – Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
The Hawks are stacked on the back end and Pouliot leads the charge. Snubbed by the Canadian world junior team, the slick-skating D-man leads all Memorial Cup rearguards in scoring with four points through two games and he has looked better than his minus-5 indicates. Drafted eighth overall by Pittsburgh in 2012.
Max Domi, C – London Knights (OHL)
You could take the between-the-legs pass Domi feathered to linemate Bo Horvat and call it a day, but the super-skilled Knights center brings more than one dimension to the Memorial Cup. Domi also plays gritty and uses that physicality to pry more offensive opportunities out of the opposing defense, not to mention keep their heads on a swivel. Draft eligible in 2013.
Peter Cehlarik, LW – Lulea (Swe.)
Cehlarik, a Slovakian winger playing in Sweden, has been garnering a lot of buzz lately thanks to an end-of-year run with Lulea’s top team, where he scored three goals and six points in eight Elite League games. He’s a big kid with nice hockey sense and good hands, though scouts would like to see him play more physical. At 6-foot-2, 192 pounds, he certainly has the mass. Draft eligible in 2013.
Andrey Makarov, G – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)
In retrospect, it seems incredible that when the Lewiston Maineiacs disbanded no other Quebec League team wanted Makarov. The Blades are more than happy about that, as their Russian rock helped the host team get its first win of the Memorial Cup over Halifax with a 29-save performance on 31 shots. When Makarov is on, he’s a puzzle for the opposition. Signed as a free agent by Buffalo in 2012.
Brian Dumoulin, D – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
Part of the Jordan Staal trade with Carolina, Dumoulin is now in his first Calder Cup playoff run and excelling for the Baby Pens. His six points through nine games put him on a much better pace than his regular season totals and he also plays an effective game in his own end. Acquired by Pittsburgh in 2012; drafted 51st overall by Carolina in 2009.
Frank DiChiara, LW – Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
The Fighting Saints have their second Clark Cup in three seasons (of existence!) thanks to DiChiara’s heroics. The Yale commit swooped in for an overtime winner against Fargo as Dubuque swept the Force in the final. This was DiChiara’s rookie campaign in the USHL after playing in the North American League the year prior. At 6-foot-1, 218 pounds, he brings a nice combination of size and skill. Draft eligible in 2013 (undrafted in 2012).
Viktor Crus Rydberg, C – Linkoping (Swe.)
An undersized center with a lot of tools, scouts will get a chance to see how Crus Rydberg stacks up at the combine in Toronto. He was a point-per-gamer with Linkoping’s under-20 team this year thanks to his hands and hockey sense, but how will he fare in the off-ice physical tests? Draft eligible in 2013.
Jason Salvaggio, C – Indiana Ice (USHL)
After putting up big numbers for New England’s Selects Academy team, Salvaggio headed out west to the United States League where he tallied 11 points in 17 games. A shooter who wants the puck on his stick, Salvaggio just decommitted from UConn and is visiting a host of Hockey East schools, so the race is back on for his services. Draft eligible in 2013.
The Hot List, a roundup of minor league, junior, college and high school players we’re excited to one day see in the NHL, appears every Tuesday on thehockeynews.com. A player is eligible for The Hot List until they play their first NHL game.
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